Suspect with checkered legal past assaults woman in own home while out on release

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Phillip John Richardson, right, appears Monday in Hilo District Court with attorney Melody Parker.

HILO — A 56-year-old Hawaiian Beaches woman told police a man entered her Kawakawa Street home Saturday morning as she was having coffee, assaulted her, stole her cordless house phone and took a swing at her husband and missed.

“I thought he was going to kill me. He had the scariest looking eyes,” the woman, who asked not to be identified, told the Tribune-Herald on Sunday. “All morning long, I’ve felt like there are shadows over me, you know. You don’t feel safe.”

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The woman said she was bruised and terrified but was otherwise physically OK.

Police arrested 34-year-old Phillip Jon Richardson of Pahoa for that incident and another at a nearby home. Richardson was charged with two counts each of strong-arm robbery and fourth-degree theft, and single counts of first-degree burglary and third-degree property damage.

The burglary charge and the two robbery charges are Class B felonies punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment upon conviction.

At Richardson’s initial court hearing Monday, Hilo District Judge Kimberly Taniyama granted defense attorney Melody Parker’s motion to have three mental health professionals examine Richardson for fitness to stand trial and penal responsibility — meaning whether he had the mental capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the incidents.

She also denied a motion by Parker to grant Richardson court-supervised release without bail, but requested a bail reduction from $78,000 to $50,000. She also ordered a bail study in the case and ordered Richardson to return to court at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 14.

The victim said she had seen her alleged assailant about a half-hour earlier.

“I told my husband, ‘There’s a shady-looking person walking down the road.’ He had a phone in his hand and he was using the phone. He had tattoos everywhere,” she said. “Then, a half an hour later, to see this guy on my balcony. And he was … saying, ‘phone, phone.’ I knew instantly he was either on drugs or, you know, not mentally stable. So I tried to stay calm and tried to get my dogs to calm down, because he was irritated by the sound of the dogs. The dogs were right at his feet, barking, but he was not intimidated by that.”

“He said ‘911.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll call 911.’ So I grabbed my phone. But I knew I needed to exit my house at the same time. This guy, he was just scaring the daylights out of me. I couldn’t even get my fingers on 911 as I was walking towards my kitchen door to get out of my house when he lunged at me, hit me (and) pushed me up against the counter. All I could do was say, ‘Take the phone. Take the phone.’

“And the minute I saw him take the phone from my hands and try to press buttons, I ran out the door. I was screaming, and my husband was in the shower. He could hear something was going on. He came out and threw on his shorts. He could see me running across the street. … The guy was in the carport and my husband looked at the guy and said, ‘Who the eff are you?’ That’s when the guy swung at my husband. My husband said he kind of ducked. … And then he started walking up the driveway after he swung at my husband. … Then my husband grabbed a two-by-four. My husband said the way the guy looked at him, he was just scary looking.

“By that time I was screaming and my neighbor was letting me into her house. She was bolting her house down and I was on the phone with 911.”

The woman said police responded quickly and told her the alleged assailant had been apprehended.

“I found out later when the cops came back he assaulted somebody up the road. He hit that guy twice on the head, putting him down on the ground. The officer seemed to think he was seeking medical help,” she said.

According to the complaint, Richardson tried to take a motor vehicle from a 70-year-old man by force, damaged the vehicle in an amount exceeding $500 and took the man’s car keys.

Richardson was acquitted by reason of insanity on June 17 of strong arm robbery, second-degree criminal tampering and fourth-degree theft charges. He was also acquitted on July 12 of burglary of a dwelling during a civil emergency or disaster declaration, trespassing on a school property and two counts each of unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle, fourth-degree theft and second-degree trespassing by reason of penal irresponsibility, which means the court found Richardson didn’t have the mental capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the alleged incident.

He was committed at Kona Community Hospital’s psychiatric ward and later placed on court-supervised conditional release at outpatient facilities — first in Kona, then in Pahoa. At a court hearing Nov. 29, a case manager told Acting Hilo Circuit Judge Jeffrey Hawk that Richardson had been discharged from the Pahoa home for behavior issues.

A bench warrant was issued with a motion requesting Richardson’s conditional release.

After learning Richardson was being held on bail and pending a mental examination, the state withdrew its motion to revoke conditional release Monday afternoon in Hilo Circuit Court.

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According to court records, Richardson was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for two counts of kidnapping, four counts each of unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle, unauthorized control of a motor vehicle and credit card theft, two counts of first-degree property damage and three counts of second-degree property damage. He also has misdemeanor assault, domestic abuse, property damage and TRO violation convictions from 2015.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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